Allentown News

Published on January 2nd, 2018


Frequently Asked Questions SLUHN-BMHS Merger

Who is St. Luke’s University Health Network?
Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network providing services at seven hospitals and more than 270 outpatient sites. With annual net revenues of $1.7 billion, the network’s service area includes 10 counties: Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Schuylkill, Bucks, Montgomery, Berks and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey.

Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is a major teaching hospital – the only one in the Greater Lehigh Valley. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the region’s first and only regional medical school campus. It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 23 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with 189 residents.

Repeatedly, including 2017, St. Luke’s earned Truven’s 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital and 50 Top Cardiovascular Program designations, in addition to other honors for clinical excellence. St. Luke’s, utilizing  the EPIC electronic medical record (EMR) system, is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of St. Luke’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.

Who is Blue Mountain Health System (BMHS)?
With a rich history, Blue Mountain Health System, established in 2004, is a non-profit, community health system consisting of two hospitals, one in Lehighton and one in Palmerton, providing health care services to the people living in Carbon County and parts of Monroe, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties. Its two hospital campuses were two of only seven hospitals in the state to be recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Health receiving the “Above and Beyond Award for Excellence in Health Care Compliance” award. The health system also features The Summit at Blue Mountain, a 91-bed skilled nursing facility, the only facility in the county that has achieved a 4-star rating in Quality Measures on the CMS Nursing Home Compare website. BMHS, the largest employer in the Carbon County, has 980 employees.

What will the names of BMHS’ Palmerton and Gnaden Huetten hospitals be after January 1, 2018?
The hospitals will be known as St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten Campus and St. Luke’s Palmerton Campus.

Will there be a reduction in workforce as a result of the merger?
As the Blue Mountain Health System transitions into the St. Luke’s Network, there will be numerous opportunities to expand existing services in Carbon and surrounding counties. In addition, there may be a need to consolidate various support services. This may involve changes in positions and titles and the relocation of selected employees to other Network sites to ensure optimal staffing. In addition, selected job responsibilities may be redefined as the Blue Mountain organization is right-sized. This may require the option for some employees to be transferred to other locations. Rest assured the St. Luke’s and Blue Mountain merger teams will work diligently to place employees in appropriate positions. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 vacancies Network-wide, for which all SLUHN Network employees are eligible to apply. In any event, there are no plans for a workforce reduction at this time, and St. Luke’s does not have a history of workforce reductions.

Will there be any change to my job, title or manager as a result of this merger?
Although various jobs, titles or reporting relationships will mostly certainly change over time, the St. Luke’s and Blue Mountain merger teams are working diligently to minimize disruptions and to facilitate the integration of the two organizations so that TOGETHER we continue to improve the ability to deliver cost effective health care to the citizens of Carbon county.

St. Luke’s has demonstrated for over 20 years the ability to partner successfully with many organizations across its service area. Each of the previously independent hospitals in Quakertown (1995), Allentown (1997), Miners (2000) and Warren (2012) was once struggling. Each faced a perilous financial situation, which put its community’s access to health care in jeopardy. St. Luke’s over the years successfully invested capital, expertise and other resources to update facilities, technology and enhance salaries and benefits at those hospitals. St. Luke’s plans to do the same at BMHS. The hospitals that joined St. Luke’s have experienced continuous growth, added services and introduced additional physician specialists – and all are thriving.

What will happen to my benefits, vacation, health care and pay?
During the initial months following the merger, BMHS employees will remain under their current benefits and compensation structure. It will be a number of months before a full evaluation of compensation and benefits is completed. However, a preliminary review indicates compensation in most instances will be enhanced. We anticipate transitioning BMHS employees to St. Luke’s benefit plans, including health care, on or about July 1, 2018. Additional information concerning the timeframe for compensation changes will be shared with all of you in the near future.

How will the merger affect my anniversary date at BMHS?
Prior years of continuous service with BMHS will be credited to eligible BMHS employees as it relates to all benefit programs, including retirement plan eligibility and vesting.

How will the merger impact the pension plan and retirement benefits?
Effective January 1, 2018, eligible BMHS employees will be entitled to participate in the St. Luke’s defined contribution retirement plan. Informational employee meetings regarding this defined contribution plan began in December.

On January 1, 2018, St. Luke’s will assume responsibility for the previously frozen (May 2005) Gnaden Huetten defined benefit retirement plan. Retirement benefits from this plan remain unchanged and will be paid when an employee becomes eligible for retirement. Blue Mountain employees with other retirement accounts from Gnaden Huetten and/or Palmerton hospitals will receive information in the near future on various options regarding their existing plans and future investment opportunities for these funds.

Does St. Luke’s offer tuition assistance and am I eligible?
St. Luke’s offers competitive tuition reimbursement for eligible employees (employees who are budgeted for 16 hours or more per week). Tuition reimbursement amounts vary based on the program of study the employee is pursuing. Details of the St. Luke’s tuition assistance will be shared with BMHS employees in the near future.

What if I am contacted by a member of the media about the merger?
If a member of the press contacts you, direct them to one of the following media contacts:

Sam Kennedy, Corporate Communications Director, SLUHN

Lisa E. Johnson, Vice President, Public Relations and Marketing, BMHS

Whom can I contact if I have additional questions?
Sylvia Goral, BMHS Director of Human Resources, is working closely with the St. Luke’s Network Human Resources Team and should be your first line of contact with any questions.

Sylvia Goral, Director of Human Resources

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